Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 5—Consolidation 1912

This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.

Woronoco Bristols sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Woronoco Bristols sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

In June 1911 Horace A. Moses announced that he was consolidating the Mittineague Paper Co. and the Woronoco Paper Co. and naming the new entity the Strathmore Paper Co. The change of name was ostensibly due to the effectiveness of an advertising campaign that had made the Strathmore name widely known. Furthermore, some Strathmore-branded papers had already been manufactured in both the Mittineague and Woronoco mills for sometime. [1] The consolidation of the two mills forced a reorganization of their combined paper lines. This began immediately with plans to publish completely new editions of the 1906 Strathmore Quality books. To that end the company announced “The ‘Strathmore Quality’ Prize Contest”:

If you have or are getting out any attractive cover design work—write us or ask our agent for folder giving complete details of our Prize Contest. You may win one of the valuable prizes.

Sixty-nine designs in two, three, four and five printings are required for our new sample book of “Strathmore Quality” Cover Papers. Prizes aggregating $500 are offered for the best designs of any work submitted.

Work may be submitted on any stock, but must be suitable for reproduction on one of the following “Strathmore Quality” stocks. Free samples for proving sent on request. [2]

Although the submissions were due August 1, no books ever materialized. Instead, the idea of reprising the 1906 Strathmore Quality books was apparently dropped and Moses turned once again to Will Bradley for help. Bradley, who at that point was working in New York as an art editor for various publishers, created a new line of “Sample Units” comprising sixty-one separate sample books, each one with covers and title pages designed by him. [3] Some of the interiors he designed as well, but most showcased the prize-winning designs from the 1911 competition.

Strathmore Quality advertisement excerpted from Advertising & Selling (November 1912), p. 93.

Strathmore Quality 2-column advertisement excerpted from Advertising & Selling vol. XXII, no. 6 (November 1912), p. 93.

Both for their quality of design and sheer quantity Bradley’s sample books for Strathmore were unprecedented. No American paper mill had ever issued that many at one time. The cover designs were original with all illustrations, ornament and lettering by Bradley. (He only used type for the fine print.) He reduced his workload by grouping some paper stocks into series with common design elements such as cartouches, decorative borders, and lettering styles. (Oddly enough, Bradley’s series did not match the four groups—Writing Papers, Book Papers, Cover Papers and Bristols, and Business Announcement Stocks—into which Strathmore had reorganized its papers.) But as a whole, the sixty-one sample books were visually diverse, with designs sporting Celtic knotwork, illustrated borders derived from medieval tapestries, plaid patterns, floral bouquets, cartoon figures, and Beggarstaff-like figures. The lettering included Roman Imperial capitals, pseudo-uncial, textura and fraktur, imitation Goudy italics, and even sans serif capitals. Most of all, the sample books were colorful. Although some were printed in two colors, many employed three to five which was unusual at the time. And the colors themselves were audacious for 1912. Bradley avoided the traditional red and black, using instead corn yellow, peach, orange, burgundy, ox-blood red, lavender, cornflower blue, cobalt blue, forest green, spring green, olive, and even silver. Individually, with the notable exception of those in the cartouche and “fraktur” series, his covers were far more lively than the celebrated Strathmore Deckle Edge Book Papers sample books he had made for Moses in the late 1890s.

Woronoco Damask sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Woronoco Damask sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria. This series appears visually bland, but each sample book within it has a different cartouche.

Wild Grass Covers sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Wild Grass Covers sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Strathmore Script sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Strathmore Script sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Ruskin Covers sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Ruskin Covers sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

While the Strathmore sample book covers were aesthetically disparate, their formats were not. Bradley standardized them into two sizes: 6 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches vertical and 10 x 6 1/4 inches horizontal. And although he did not use the thistle as a focal point for any of the designs, he refashioned the Strathmore Quality seal and made sure that it appeared on each sample book, sometimes multiple times (including on the back cover). Finally, to reassure printing customers that their favorite paper—whether from Mittineague or Woronoco—had not changed due to the consolidation, each sample book identified the mill at which the paper line was made. In every way, Bradley’s 1912 sample book designs were a virtuoso performance. [4]

Damask Bristols sample book cover (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. (Damask is mistakenly spelled "Damastz" as Bradley mistook a tz ligature for a k in fraktur.) Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Damask Bristols sample book cover (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. (Damask is mistakenly spelled “Damastz” as Bradley mistook a tz ligature for a k in fraktur.) This series was bound using a grommet. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Strathmore Deckle Edge Book & Cover sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Strathmore Deckle Edge Book & Cover sample book (Strathmore Paper Co., 1912). Cover design by Will Bradley. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Notes
1. See The Printing Trade News vol. XLI, no. 33 (August 19, 1911), p. 82. “The extensive advertising campaign which the company has carried on has brought the name Strathmore as prominently before the public that is was decided to give this name to the new company, and thus extend to the factory itself the benefits of the popularity of the Strathmore papers.” Also see The Springfield Republican (8 July 1911), p. 3.
2. The advertisement ran several times in The Inland Printer with the first appearance being in the May 1911 issue (vol. XLVII, no. 2), prior to the consolidation announcement. The stocks were Old Stratford Parchment Cover, Strathmore Chameleon Cover, Rhodendron Folding Bristol, Rhododendron Duplex Bristol, Rhododendron Box Cover Paper, Rhododendron Cover, Old Cloister Cover, Alexis Folding Bristol, Alexis Cover, Tapestry Cover, and Adirondack Cover. Although Strathmore needed sixty-nine designs, cash prizes (ranging from $10 to $50) were only offered for the best fourteen; the remaining winners were promised certificates of Honorable Mention.
3. After leaving The University Press in  1900 Bradley continued to be a major figure in American graphic design. He had served as Advertising Art Director (1903–1905) for American Type Founders where he inaugurated and designed The American Chap-Book, worked as  Art Editor for Collier’s (1907–1910) (earning $40 a day in 1908 according to The Inland Printer), and then simultaneously Art Editor for Metropolitan, Century, Success and Good Housekeeping magazines (after 1910).
4. Although Strathmore said that Bradley designed sixty-one different paper lines, none of the advertisements ever listed that many. The highest number I have seen is forty-seven. The presentation of the paper lines in an oak cabinet was also an innovation. Apparently the idea was that of C.W. Dearden, the advertising manager at Strathmore. See The Printing Trade News vol. XLII, no. 7 (February 12, 1912), p. 43.